They say things can get better with time. Brazilian jazz singer Kenia’s first album in a decade, Simply Kenia, proves this adage true.
Gaining acclaim among Brazilian music fans in the 80s and 90s, Kenia fused samba and bossa nova with jazz, overlaid with her laid back, Astrud Gilberto-influenced vocals. Often she would perform traditional Brazilian tracks, but also add covers of songs like “Over the Rainbow,” infused with her signature sound. Alternating between Portuguese and English, she would also perform original compositions. This diversity surfaced early on with 1988’s Distant Horizon: Rio/New York, which features her sultry cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Creepin’” as well as more traditional sounds like “A Voz do Brasil.”
Listening to that album right before Simply Kenia, it is evident how Kenia’s singing style has developed through the years. While on Distant Horizon her vocals sounded tentative at times, Simply Kenia showcases an artist fully in control of her sound. Her vocals have deepened over time, adding extra emotion and sensuality in each track.
Kenia displays her impressive jazz vocal chops on the samba number “Catupiry” She also effectively sings accompanied by only an acoustic guitar on the beautiful “Anjo De Veiha Guarda.” Similar to previous albums, she tackles an American standard, this time Matt Dennis’ “Angel Eyes,” transformed into sexy bossa nova.
Other English numbers on the album include the breezy “Being Cool,” an English translation of samba legend Djavan’s “Avião,” as well as the pretty Brazilian pop-laced “Your Face” and “Open Invitation,” a nice fusion of pop and bossa nova. She also dabbles in choro, a pre-samba form of Brazilian music that has enjoyed a recent renaissance. “Lamentos,” a composition by choro pioneer and saxophonist Pixinguinha, gives Kenia a perfect vehicle for her laid back style.